Notre Dame vs. Louisville preview: Fighting Irish, Cardinals prepare for a Top Five ACC showdown
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – A top-three showdown awaits as No. 2 Notre Dame women’s basketball travels to No. 3 Louisville on Thursday, Jan. 11, for a battle for the top-spot in the ACC standings. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, with tip-off set for 7 p.m. ET inside the KFC Yum Center.
The Irish (14-1, 3-0) vie for their ninth straight win and their second against a top-five opponent this season, after previously dispatching No. 3 ranked South Carolina. Notre Dame, who stopped the Gamecocks then 17-game win streak, will look to halt another streak on Thursday as the Cardinals (18-0, 4-0) enter with an unblemished record.
Arike Ogunbowale has produced three straight games of 20- plus points and is once again vying for the opportunity to tie her career best stretch of four straight, already set once this season.
Ogunbowale has proven herself to be an ACC road warrior, tallying 25 points at both Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, with each marking her second highest scoring output on the year. The junior got off to hot starts in each, scoring 10 points in the first quarter at Wake Forest and then a season best 12 points in the opening period at Georgia Tech. Ogunbowale started the game 7-of-8 from the field vs the Yellow Jackets.
Perseverance has been the name of the game in South Bend and the Irish have the numbers to back it up. With a strength of schedule ranked first in the country, a RPI ranked second and conference RPI ranked first, the Irish enter Thursday’s matchup 16-1, winners of eight straight and a 4-0 record in ACC play.
Notre Dame boasts the second most wins over RPI top- 50 opponents with eight and is also tied with Louisville for the second most wins over top-25 ranked opponents with four. A win Thursday over the third ranked Cardinals would tie UConn for first in both categories, and also tie the Huskies for two top-five wins this season.
SHOOTING PERCENTAGE HEATING UP
In two the last three games, the Irish have produced their highest and third highest shooting percentages on the season - both of which occurred on the road. At Wake Forest, Notre Dame shot at least 80.0 percent in both the first and third quarters, finishing at 55.7 percent for the game. At Georgia Tech, the Irish shot 70.0 percent (21-30) from the field in the first half, marking the first time they had accomplished the feat in any half of play since shooting 71.4 (30-42) versus Valparaiso on Dec. 4, 2016. Notre Dame ultimately finished with a season best 62.3 percent.
All-in-all, Notre Dame is shooting an impressive 51.0 percent during ACC play, which ranks first in the league. As a result, Notre Dame’s season shooting percentage has jumped to 49.0 percent, which ranks seventh in the nation.
With the win at Georgia Tech on Jan. 7, the Irish procured its ninth win away from home this season, which ties Villanova and UConn for the most among all NCAA Division-I schools. From Nov. 14-Dec. 3, the Irish played seven straight games away from the friendly confines of Purcell Pavilion, matching the longest streak of non-home games in regular season history. Now Notre Dame has played a total of 10 away from home, travelling 13,070 round-trip miles in the process.
CAREER VS CARDINALS
In three career games vs Louisville, Ogunbowale has totaled 50 points to average 16.7 points per game. Mabrey’s 26 points against Louisville last March lifted the Irish past the Cardinals into the ACC Tournament Championship game. Overall, Mabrey averages 10.0 points over three games. Young contributed 16 points in each of the two games vs Louisville last season. Finally, Westbeld is averaging 7.0 points over four games.
No. 3 Louisville’s 18-0 record is their best start and longest winning streak in program history, besting the program’s 16 straight wins set from 12/3/13 to 2/4/14. The Cardinals are one-of-four remaining undefeated teams in the country along with No. 1 UConn, No. 4 Mississippi State and next week’s opponent for Notre Dame, No. 6 Tennessee.
Thursday’s game will be between two of the top-shooting teams in the country as Louisville’s .486 shooting percentage ranks eighth in the country. The Cardinals also rank 18th in free-throw percentage (.766) and 12th in three-point shooting percentage (.389). Individually, Louisville is led by Asia Durr’s 20.2 points per game, which ranks 31st in the nation.